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Freestyle Breathing Swimming Tips

Freestyle is the first stroke that most children learn and is the fastest of the four competitive strokes.  Listed below are a number of tips on how to improve your breathing in freestyle.

Should I breathe on the first stroke? After streamlining off the wall on a start or turn, begin your first freestyle stroke just before your head and body breaks the surface.  Swimmers who breathe on this first stroke will often slow themselves down at a time where they do not really need a breathe.  Take your first breathe on your second or third stroke rather than your first stroke.

When do I breathe?  There are many different ways of explaining to someone when to breathe in freestyle.  Turn your head to breathe on your right hand side as the finger tips of your left hand enters the water following the recovery.  This provides an excellent reference point for swimmers of all ages.  Your head should continue to turn to breathe as the front or opposite hand is extending forward.

How often should I breathe?  Swimmers breathe every 2, 3 or 4 strokes in general.  Most coaches will teach young swimmers about bi-lateral breathing, breathing every 3 strokes, so that they develop both sides of the body.  Work with your coach to develop the best breathing pattern for you.

Should I breathe in the last 5 metres?  The answer is no, in both training and competition.  Whatever you do in training will happen in a race, so if you want to hold your breathe for the last 5 metres, particularly in a close race then practice it every time you finish a lap in training.

I am having trouble breathing after only a short distance of swimming.  What am I doing wrong?  Many adult swimmers and young children have this problem.  It is primarily caused by not exhaling before you began to inhale, resulting in limited lung space for the new breath and then a shortness of breath.  Try exhaling all your air out underwater before turning to breathe.  Take one large breath and then exhale all your air out underwater before breathing again.  With young children practice yo-yo’s where a child hangs onto the edge and ducks underwater to exhale totally then comes up for one breathe and straight back under water.  Do this for a minute or two to get really good at it.

Breathing correctly is very important in freestyle and we hope these tips help you to improve your breathing.

For more information about Freestyle see Freestyle Swimming Technique.

Gary Barclay

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